Thursday, April 1, 2010

Palma Sola Hotel - 1901

Palma Sola Hotel - 1901

My (Albert here again) young wife Daisy brought new life to the farm. Because of Daisy we hosted and attending frequent family gatherings. We did not miss any community gatherings and traveled by boat to Chicago once or twice a year. Shopping in South Haven became a once or twice a month routine. The farm kept generating a nice cash flow and I was paid back on some of the loans I had made to Alta May’s brothers. In 1900, the year after 12 year-old Max died; we started talking about spending some time in Florida. In January of 1900 Daisy, Bill (age 4) and I traveled by train and steamer to Bradentown (as it was called then). We had heard so much about the area we wanted to see it for our selves.

As we turned from Tampa Bay and steamed up the Manatee River this beautiful two-story hotel dominated the tree line. It was on McNeill Point at Palma Sola. Once we settled in Bradentown we discovered the hotel was for sale. After looking at several properties, we purchased the 20-room Palma Sola Hotel for $1,300 cash. It was completely furnished, on 9 acres, had 1300 feet of river frontage, and included a fine wharf. We moved into the hotel at the end of January. Agent Riggin arranged the purchase from Gilbert Warner son of Warburton Warner who had built the maritime hotel in 1882. Warburton and his father (James) developed and marketed Palma Sola, built a large sawmill, wharf, general store, fish house and ice house. By the time I arrived, Warburton had died and all of the major buildings, except the hotel, had been destroyed by fire. It was rumored that jealous husbands, of women Warburton had 'befriended', started some of the fires.

The local weekly newspaper (Manatee River Journal) published several articles about our hotel project. Daisy and I were treated as local celebrities. I think they knew we had some spending money. I hired a Mr. Rudd to help with the property and purchased a 20-passenger gasoline launch. We named the boat “Daisy”.   Captain and Mrs. Overhiser and Mr. Rudd became our names because of the newspaper articles. Everyone in the area was a captain of something.

The second week at the hotel Mr. Rudd’s 7-year old son came shouting that his dad had been buried in a hole. Rudd was down 12 feet below the surface working on a failed pump when the banks gave way completely burying him beneath some 7 feet of earth. For 30 minutes I worked the hardest of my whole life digging him out. He was not breathing but by vigorous handling and shaking, I revived him. Later that same day I rescued a man and young boy who had gotten into trouble in rough weather on the river. Everyday there were unexpected things calling for my attention.

Our son Bill (William McKinley) became good friends with Mr. Rudd’s son, who was 2 years older. The two boys enjoyed being river rats. They played in the river, swam, fished, collected shells and picked oyster from the river. Bill developed a love for oysters and tropical fruit. A few years later we started a family tradition of serving oyster stew on Christmas Day to celebrate Bill’s birthday. When we returned north we all felt much healthier because of the climate, exercise and diet. Bill added 10 pounds, I put on 15 lbs and Daisy added some 20 lbs.

We worked on the property day and night. Daisy purchased additional furnishings, china, and kitchen utensils while redecorating the lobby and guest rooms. Rudd and I worked on the hotel, the out buildings, fixtures, wharf, and planted several tropical and semi-tropical fruit trees. I had visions of growing winter fruit in Florida and summer fruit in Michigan. That first winter we had a few guests stay at the hotel but did not advertise, as Daisy did not think we were ready to formally entertain. H However, we were kept very busy carrying picnic and excursion parties up the river. On one of those trips we killed a 10-foot alligator and we could always catch fish. At the end of March 1901, after 3 months, we packed up and returned to Michigan. I left Mr. Rudd in charge of the hotel, grounds, and the "Daisy" Launch.

Note – Above written by Martin Overhiser based mostly on Manatee River Journal articles and a little conjecture.

At the Farm April 1, 2010

The fruit trees at are still being trimmed so they will look their best this summer and be receptive to the sun shining into their centers. Allan has already applied a spray on the dormant peach and nectarine trees for peach yellow leaf curl. This fungus can cause defoliation and crop loss. The blossoms will be starting at the end of April and continue through the middle of May. Cherries come first followed by the other fruits.

Martin and Lucy O got to see the cherry blossoms in DC the end of March while visiting daughter Marla and son-in-law Malcolm. Did you know that 3,000 cherry trees were planted around the title basin in 1912. They were a gift from the people of Tokyo to the people of DC. In 1965 Lady Bird Johnson accepted another 3,800 cherry trees from Japan. The DC Festival includes blossoms, kites, 10-mile run and traffic jams. We would advise you drive past Overhiser Orchards to see blossoms and avoid the DC traffic. The 3-26-2010 photo below is of the JFK Grave Site in Arlington - magnolia blossoms. The Washington and Jefferson monuments are in the background.